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Educational health information to improve your well-being.

Beat the Heat: How to Prevent Heat Stroke

June 12, 2018
Published in: First Aid, Stroke, Summer

Woman drinking bottled water with the sun directly behind her

Blue skies, bright sun, and warm temperatures make for perfect days of working, playing, and being in the great outdoors. After the winter chill, we're all ready for a little fun in the sun. However, every season comes health hazards. For warmer seasons, heat stroke is the most serious heat-related injury. In fact, it can cause brain damage or even death. Staying safe in the sun is possible though. Learning about heat stroke and how to prevent it is an important step to protect yourself.

Important Facts About Heat Stroke

  • Temperature and humidity create dangerous conditions for heat stroke. Eighty-degree temperatures combined with 75% humidity are enough to put you at risk for heat stroke.
  • People of 65 years old, children under age five years old, people with chronic illness, athletes, and people that work outside are at increased risk of heat stroke.
  • A temperature of 104ºF is considered the main indicator of heat stroke. Heat stroke advances rapidly and can be deadly if left untreated.

Know the Warning Signs

Heat stroke symptoms include:

  • Fainting – this is often the first sign of heat stroke
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle cramps or weakness
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Lack of sweat despite the heat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Red, hot, dry skin
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Inability to walk
  • Seizures

Prevention Checklist

Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hatIt's important to be proactive to prevent heat stroke. Make sure you're following these guidelines to stay safe.

  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, clothes in light colors. Tight, dark clothes trap heat and don't let you sweat properly.
  • Wear sunscreen and a hat when you're outside to avoid sunburn. Sunburn prevents the body from releasing heat adequately.
  • Spend time indoors in air-conditioned spaces. Fans aren't enough to prevent heat stroke.
  • Cool down your car before driving. Never leave anyone parked in a hot car! Car interiors can heat up in 20-degree increments every 10 minutes.
  • Drink plenty of water. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Water helps us sweat and keep a normal body temperature. Alcohol and caffeine drain fluids from the body. Remember, dark urine is an indication that you're dehydrated.
  • Ask your doctor about your medications. Some medications may increase your risk of heat stroke.

In Case of Emergency

If someone is experiencing heat stroke, it's essential to call 911 and get help immediately! Heat stroke quickly affects major organs and can be fatal. While you’re waiting for help to arrive, there are several ways you can assist a heat stroke victim. The 911 operator will also provide instructions on the best way to assist the victim.

Ways to assist a heat stroke victim:

  • Get the victim to a cool area, preferably indoors. If an indoor location isn't an option, provide shade for the victim.
  • Apply cool water to the skin. If possible, use ice packs.
  • Have the victim drink cool water. Remember, no caffeine or alcohol.

The goal is to cool the victim's body temperature. Dropping the temperature to between 101º and 102º can help prevent further injury from heat stroke.

Heat stroke is a dangerous and potentially deadly heat-related injury. Prevention is your best way to avoid heat stroke risks. By taking these precautions, you can beat the heat and safely enjoy the warm weather.